Feature

Turning Arabs into superheroes

Suleiman Bakhit, a Jordanian, has created comic superheroes for Arab children. His purpose is to fight extremism by choosing heroes that exemplify tolerance and diversity.

Margarida Santana LopesPúblico (Portugal)

The Arab world finally has its own superheroes, said Margarida Santana Lopes in the Lisbon Público. Their creator, Jordanian Suleiman Bakhit, says he decided after 9/11 that Arabs needed more positive role models. Bakhit was studying in Minneapolis at the time of the 9/11 attacks, when he was beaten severely “by four white guys leaving a bar.” After that experience, he began working with American schoolchildren in an outreach program to teach that Arabs are people, too. The kids would ask what Arab children watched on TV and what comic books they read, “and I realized,” Bakhit said, “that we had no superheroes.” He returned to Jordan and launched his comics company, Aranim, which for more than a year now has been delighting Arab kids with tales of noble Jordanian fighter pilots and futuristic children with superpowers. Bakhit has tried to create authentically Arab characters. He is planning, for example, to reclaim Aladdin, “who was horribly co-opted” by Disney in an animated film. These new heroes exemplify tolerance and diversity. “My goal,” he says, “is to fight extremism.”

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